Where’s the mark?
Rafael Nadal wrapped up his 6-1, 7-6(7/4) win over Miomir Kecmanovic on Wednesday with an ace, but commentators later said his serve was actually wide.
Kecmanovic opted not to challenge and the match was over, but later on court, Nadal was joined by a group of people for a ceremony honouring the late Manolo Santana – one of which was his opponent’s coach David Nalbandian.
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After the ceremony, Nadal walked across the net to the service box to check out the mark and Nalbandian kept pointing to one that showed the serve was out.
This is what Nadal had to say about the whole thing after the match.
“Was two marks there. One was good; one was out. I am not sure, but I think the ball was out, but I am not sure. Difficult to talk,” said the Spaniard.
“By the way, the problem now is you have to call it very quick. That's what the umpire told us before the match. If you can see very quickly, you can do it, and I think the problem is Miomir didn't see it really quick and I was already on the net.
“I don't know. I didn't see the ball. After, when I was at the net, I saw that one ball was a little bit out. I don't know if he had the chance to ask for this [challenge] or not."
Nadal added that Kecmanovic was very “fair” about the whole incident and didn’t create a big fuss.
Still, it’s a lesson learned for the 22-year-old Serb that you should always challenge a match point if there is any doubt; especially when you have unlimited challenges, as is the case at the Madrid Open.
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Nadal’s match was scheduled for 4pm local time on Wednesday so he could go to the Santiago Bernabeu and watch the Real Madrid Champions League semi-final second leg against Manchester City.
He came to talk to the media immediately after he walked off court – in record time, I must add – but was in no rush when it came to answering questions, giving a lengthy press conference after his victory, in both Spanish and English, being the consummate professional that he is.
We could sense he really wanted to get out of there though as he looked at his watch multiple times, keen to get to the stadium early to soak up the atmosphere.
“I don't know what to expect. I just expect to enjoy the match, and of course, I hope to win,” said the avid Madridista.
“Of course, I want to leave but I know that this is my job too. But, yeah, going to be a spectacular atmosphere there. I would love to arrive a little bit before,” he added with a laugh. “But I am answering the questions enough well and I think long enough, to be fair with you.”
Fair enough! He sprinted out of the room moments later.
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Jamon and crepe
Grigor Dimitrov has an annual routine when he comes to Madrid. He arrives a few days early and then hits the famous market, ‘Mercado de San Miguel’ to feast on some jamón.
He also visits a little place that serves his favourite crepes and allows himself to indulge for a day; his “cheat day” that is.
“I eat until my stomach gets pretty heavy and tired and then I lock myself in and get to play again,” he told Eurosport with a laugh following his comprehensive 6-0 6-3 second-round win over No. 13 seed Diego Schwartzman on Wednesday.
Dimitrov’s Madrid food stops have not changed but his clay-court preparations certainly have.
The Bulgarian former world No. 3 says he decided to do things differently this year ahead of the start of his clay campaign, with one specific purpose in mind.
“I really want to enjoy the clay-court season to the absolute maximum that I can,” he tells me.
“I’ve had very good results on clay, then I had very bad results on clay. That’s why in the end I was like, ‘You know what, let’s not over-think the situation’.
“I’ve been on tour for like 13 years now, I know how to prepare, I know what I’ve done in the past, so I was thinking maybe I’ll alter it a little bit and see how it goes,” explained the 30-year-old.
“So far, I’m happy to be out there. I think I’m moving well, a lot of the weapons are I think on display. It’s going well.”
It’s going incredibly well!
Dimitrov began his clay swing by reaching the semis in Monte Carlo, knocking out two top-15 players along the way.
In Madrid, after his opening round victory over serve-and-volley expert Maxime Cressy, Dimitrov was in cruise control against Schwartzman, dropping just six points in total in the first set and wrapping up the entire match in just 69 minutes.
“It was chilly so I was in a rush… no, I’m kidding,” said Dimitrov moments after walking off court on Wednesday.
When I told him he lost just six points in the first set, he was pleasantly surprised. “Really? Oh, that’s cool. I don’t remember playing a set like that,” he added.
So what exactly has he been doing differently?
“I think just working a little bit smarter. I think in the past I tended to overdo a little bit of my practice and my preparation and everything on that end,” he replied.
“I think this time I was just like, ‘I’m going to get to the court, try to do the most simple things and that is to rally, to look after my shots and try to have a little bit more of a clear game’. So a little bit more simplicity.
“I’m just being more precise, that’s all. I really try to focus on listening to my body a little bit more and try to feel where I’m at every single day because, of course, not every day I wake up and I’m at my absolute best.”
The road to confidence
World No. 10 Ons Jabeur was in complete control of her quarter-final match against Simona Halep on Wednesday, and later said she hadn’t felt this confident in her shot selection and execution in a really long time.
Asked how she got to reach this level of confidence in her game, which has helped her move into the second WTA 1000 semi-final of her career, Jabeur said: “Preparing for the match in a certain way kind of helps me reach the level that I want to reach.
“I mean, stress-wise or physically-wise or the fact that I can really think on the court and not let the frustration take part or the stress.”
The 27-year-old also explained that analysing her defeats has also been a great help.
“Playing a lot of matches as well could help me be more confident. Losing a few matches where I thought I was able to win but then focus more on what I did wrong – that I think I improved a lot in that level, because when I lose a match, it’s not just, ‘Okay, I lost, and then move on’. No, I just really need to know what happened in that game.
“I think maturity-wise, I think I evolved in that part, and that's what makes me the player I am today. I'm still really looking forward to seeing what I can bring.”
Jabeur lost her last two matches with Halep and said before the clash that was “in revenge mode” this tournament, having avenged her Charleston final defeat to Belinda Bencic in the previous round in Madrid.
She successfully resumed her revenge tour with her win over Halep and described why it was such an important win for her.
“I think this tournament is teaching me how to really dig deep, because I feel playing Simona and winning against Simona today was a mandatory part that I had to go through to achieve the goals that I told you about. And why not be top-five and win more titles?” said the Tunisian.
“So I'm glad that I succeeded in this test, but the tournament is not over yet. I need to really see what the next test will be.”
It’s a good thing she is in revenge mode because she has lost five of her six matches against her next opponent, Ekaterina Alexandrova.
Stats of the day
- On Monday, Rafael Nadal will begin his 800th week in the top five and his record-extending 868th straight week in the top 10.
- With Andy Murray, Dan Evans and Cameron Norrie all advancing in Madrid, it’s the first time ever that three British men have reached the last-16 stage at the same Masters 1000 event in singles.
- Ekaterina Alexandrova is the third qualifier to reach the Madrid semi-finals, joining Lucie Hradecka (2012) and Louisa Chirico (2016). The Russian has already won six matches this week in Madrid – through qualifying and the main draw – and is through to her first WTA 1000 semi-final.
- Jabeur hit 18 drop shots in her match against Halep and was unsuccessful in just one of them.
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